We can’t believe that it’s already day 3! As the third day of ICA Congress Abu Dhabi 2023 draws to a close, we have once again had the privilege to take part in a richly filled day of activities, speeches, and interchange. In this newsletter you will catch a glimpse of the day’s events, featuring a variety of topics presented by a diverse and representative selection of our community, there truly is something for everyone at Congress!
Session 1.07 – Responding to the Archival Challenge of Trauma in Archives
This session, on archives and trauma, provided a much-needed intervention on a critical topic. Although we take it for granted that preserving our past is positive, it is important to remember that many of the events that populate that past were experienced as extremely damaging by those living through them. The trauma of that harm often persists in contemporary societies, and so the methods we choose as archivists to deal with and use records pertaining to such events is of great significance.
This session presented research funded by the ICA Programme Commission and conducted in conjunction with the ICA Section for Archival Education and Training (SAE), using a panel format to share results of the survey and the recommendations drawn from them by the researchers. The discussion that followed between attendees and the panel was an enriching opportunity for all involved.
“I think that awareness and advocacy is such a key point to this work. And that’s something that anyone who’s been allied to, or who is willing to support these conversations has to step up and try and assist.” Nicola Laurent, President of the Australian Society of Archivists, ICA New Professionals Programme Coordinator.
“It may be possible to bring back to our institutions a conversation about what it means to be a really good archivist, and what it means to respect the people and the stories in the record… What do we aspire to in terms of the service we provide as an Archives?” Meg Phillips, External Affairs Liaison at The National Archives of the US, ICA Vice-President Programme.
Keynote Address by Dr Shashi Tharoor
This morning’s Keynote Address by Indian MP and author Dr Shashi Tharoor invited delegates to reflect upon major social themes and the complex relationship archival knowledge has with political power. Dr Tharoor reminded us all that nations must unify diverse communities within their borders, constructing national values and beliefs than can bring people together by creating a shared sense of identity.
History and memory are critical to this effort, and when actors or institutions draw from the past it is incumbent upon us all to reject narratives that seek to use history and memory as tools of division. Therefore, our profession bears a double responsibility: to be among the first and loudest voices to condemn bad actors, while diligently contributing our expertise to efforts that seek to foster unity within national and international communities through the responsible use of shared archival heritage.
“Above all history is meant to enrich us, not to impoverish us, which is what happens when we wield history as a weapon of mass division to tear people asunder.” Dr Shashi Tharoor, author and Member of Parliament, India.
Session 1.04 – The Tandanya-Declaration – Four Years on: What Progress has Been Made?
This session, chaired by David Fricker, former ICA President and ICA Fellow 2023, examined how the Tandanya-Declaration has impacted archival practice since its publication in October 2019. The Declaration called for changes to archival practice through the decolonisation of public archives in colonial jurisdictions and the remodelling of archival principles to better support Indigenous knowledge authorities, property and ownership, recognition and identity, research and access, and self-determination.
This ambitious text, an emblematic example of the ICA’s renewed institutional commitment to the elevation of marginalised voices, is one that responds to the growing calls being made globally by First Nations and Indigenous communities for their voices to be heard across the spectrum of historical, political, and social platforms. It is essential that such policies are regularly reviewed, and their impacts analysed, because real institutional change often requires committed work and substantial amounts of time. At various points, there was conversation about how the ICA provides an opportunity for discussion on these topics, which include the relevant communities and safe spaces, allowing all voices to be heard.
What has your experience at Congress been like?
“It has been a pleasure for me to be able to meet archivists coming from a variety of places, whether that be Latin America, Africa, Europe, or Asia. It has been a very enriching experience for me.” Hildebert Randolphe Aglikpo, Student at the Université Jean Jaurès de Toulouse. ICA Active New Professional, 2022-2023 cohort.
“I really have enjoyed this Conference, and something that took me by surprise is that we got a gift in our registration package. It was a book, beautifully imprinted, but the picture was on the back! The image was all nicely done up, so I thought that the printing was done wrong, it was upside-down, and I left thinking that, oh that’s a problem… [I] was told that in Arabic, they read from the back to the front — just like how we read a file actually! Therefore, there was nothing wrong with our gift, that is just how the Arabic countries do their printing, so I am now a little wiser!” Sonia Black, Retired Campus Records Manager at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
And that’s a wrap! Although the week’s sessions and workshops are now concluded, we know that the conversations, ideas, and memories shared at each event will continue to stimulate the minds and work of attendees. Opportunities to come together at events like the Congress catalyse and invigorate the work that each of us undertake, reminding participants why we do what we do and the universal importance of archives and records management.
But of course, ICA Congress Abu Dhabi 2023 it isn’t over yet! Tomorrow morning, we look forward to the fifth and final keynote address of the Congress, to be given by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, as well as the panel on Sustainable Development in the Cultural Heritage and Information Field, before we finally say goodbye to our attendees at the closing ceremony.